Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Five Ways to Protect Your Gallbladder

As the Southern hemisphere summer begins, many of us are focused on getting and keeping that amazing beach body. However, many would not consider the role that our gallbladders have to play in all of this. Besides the now-small but still unsightly scar that a bikini would reveal if you needed it removed, your gallbladder lets you store bile until you eat, instead of the liver drip-feeding bile to the intestines. This is important because insufficient bile means you cannot absorb fat or fat soluble vitamins very well. These are needed for their antioxidant, immune-protecting, mineral-regulating properties, as well as fats being needed for the base structure of many hormones. Fats give you sustained energy, which can prevent sugar cravings. But how can you protect your gallbladder against developing stones?

Source: Simon A. Eugster
It seems like an over-hyped trend with all of the research articles coming out, but turmeric may be one way to prevent gallbladder congestion. A small, randomised trial tested the ability of 20mg of curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, against placebo for its ability to keep the gallbladder contracting well. While the fasting gallbladder volume was about the same, after eating the volume was reduced by 12%, 17%, 22% and 29% respectively after 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes respectively. Another small trial also tested curcumin, but at different doses. At 2 hours after taking 20mg of curcumin, gallbladder volume was 34% lower; after 40mg of curcumin, it was 51% lower and after 80mg, it was reduced by 72%.

Additionally, going vegetarian (or at least eating more plant-based foods) has been linked to a lower risk of gallstones. When 632 meat-eating women were matched with 130 vegetarian women, the meat eaters had a 2.5 times higher risk of developing gallstones! When age and body weight were controlled for, this risk was only 1.9 times higher, but still significant (that's a 90% increase).

One specific plant food that could protect you against gallstones is nuts. Looking at the over 80,000 women of the Nurses' Health Study, eating a serving (about 28 grams) of nuts more than five times a week was linked with a 25% reduction of the risk of needing gallbladder removal, compared to less than one serving a month.

On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids, which can be more readily available in fish, may also prevent gallstone formation. This was suggested in a study where obese women given omega-3 supplementation had more stable cholesterol saturation and nucleation times during rapid weight loss. While more research is needed, the authors also mentioned reports of omega-3 fats reducing bile cholesterol saturation.

Good old-fashioned tea could also help to prevent gallstones. In a Chinese study of 1,037 patients with gallstones, 627 with cancers of the gallbladder or bile duct, and matched controls, regular tea consumption reduced the risk of gallstones by 29%. The risk of gallbladder or bile duct cancer was cut down by half. Beginning regular tea consumption at an earlier age, or having kept it up for longer, was associated with stronger protection. It has also been found in an animal study that EGCG, a substance in green tea, could prevent gallstone formation by altering cholesterol pathways and reducing inflammation. Overall, there are many ways to protect the health of your gallbladder, but it is always best to consult a naturopath who knows your individual health and history.

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